Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Critics' guide to THE GUIDE

"The Guide has proven itself to be a superb idea—...in both formats, breaking down barriers....[It's] sure to bring more first-timers to next season’s series of eight major works in Lyric’s 'Operaland' and give much amusement to that world’s present inhabitants. Let’s hope this becomes an annual enterprise with fresh material each year." – Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

Second City stage

Why are Chicago critics and audiences raving about Jeff Recommended The Second City Guide to the Opera?

The comedy:

 • "[I]mprovisers and actors Joey Bland, Molly Brennan, Lili-Anne Brown, Beth Melewski, Timothy Sniffen and Tim Ryder...send up the tropes of their discipline with precision blackout sketches, traditional Second City-style songs and recurring bits like 'Dr. Opera,' featuring classic characters in therapy." – Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago

• "One had the sense that some in the crowd were experiencing the manifestation of their wildest dreams: a chance to laugh, all night long, at a 'Ring Cycle' curtain announcement." – Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune  

The music:

• Ryan Opera Center alumnus "tenor Bernard Holcomb['s]...comedic chops and 'let’s put on a show!' enthusiasm are...infectious. Prominent Ryan alumna mezzo Lauren Curnow has joined the cast, and both singers...have solo musical turns. [T]he musical numbers are...quite touching and in the small setting, even poignant."             – Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

The onstage seating:

• "...[A] soprano's-eye view from the stage of [the Civic Opera House,] one of Chicago's most essential treasures, illuminated for the occasion. Sketch comedy never looked classier." – Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

The spirit of collaboration and fun: 

• "...[M]asterful in the way it rides the line between catering to Lyric regulars and opera newbies." – Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago

• "The Guide has proven itself to be a superb idea...in both formats, breaking down barriers....[It's] sure to bring more first-timers to next season’s series of eight major works in Lyric’s 'Operaland' and give much amusement to that world’s present inhabitants. Let’s hope this becomes an annual enterprise with fresh material each year." – Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

Critics sing OKLAHOMA!'s praises

"There has to be an entry for 'Yee-HA!' in the critic’s lexicon, or there’s no adequate word for the stylish, funny, handsomely sung production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Lyric again demonstrates a serious commitment of resources and the highest standard of theatrical excellence in the most embracing sense. This high-spirited, downhome Oklahoma! is an absolute joy." – Lawrence B. Johnson,Chicago on the Aisle

• "Gary Griffin's grand production by Lyric Opera [is] a joyous revelation." – John Olson, Chicago Theater Beat

• "Under the direction of Gary Griffin, the baton of James Lowe, the choreography of Gemze de Lappe, this is as good as it gets. The romance charms. The comedy crackles. And the singing enchants. I grinned the entire time. I knew exactly what was going to happen every moment but I stayed on high alert. I didn’t want to miss one note, one step, one kiss. Oklahoma! is like stepping back into a favorite memory and having a superior ensemble reenact it for your personal pleasure. And this ensemble is superior." – Katy Walsh, ChicagoNow      

• "There has to be an entry for 'Yee-HA!' in the critic’s lexicon, or there’s no adequate word for the stylish, funny, handsomely sung production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Confirming the impression it made a year ago with Show Boat, its splendid first venture into the American musical, Lyric Opera again demonstrates a serious commitment of resources and the highest standard of theatrical excellence in the most embracing sense. This high-spirited, downhome Oklahoma! is an absolute joy." – Lawrence B. Johnson, Chicago on the Aisle

Congratulations to the entire Oklahoma! team on a triumphant production and an auspicious launch to Lyric's five-year exploration of Rodgers & Hammerstein's oeuvre.

CRUZAR by the numbers

"...[A] moving story with universal appeal, performed with enormous zest and color..." – John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune                                   

Cruzar

 • "...[A] moving story with universal appeal, performed with enormous zest and color..." – John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

• "...[A] remarkably compelling and compact work... [A] persuasive immigration story told in heartfelt musical terms..." – Dennis Polkow, Newcity Stage

• "...[A]n emotional journey for the audience, especially for those who are reminded of their own story or that of a relative..."– Gisela Orozco, Hoy Chicago 

• "The energy of Martinez and his fellow musicians was tremendous. ...All the songs were beautifully performed by the Vargas group and the actor-singers." – Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times  

Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, the world's first mariachi opera, first commissioned by Lyric general director Anthony Freud when he was with Houston Opera, is the story of "one family, two countries, one life-changing secret."  Presented in April by Lyric Unlimited, the new audience development and community engagement branch of Lyric Opera. Let's look a little bit closer at Cruzar by the numbers

• Approximately 7520 total audience members attended Cruzar la Cara de la Luna at one of 5 performances.

• Cruzar was presented at 3 venues in 3 different neighborhoods: the Civic Opera House in Chicago's Loop, Benito Juárez Academy in Pilsen on Chicago's South Side, and the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan on Chicago's North Shore.

• 42% of the Cruzar audience members at the Civic Opera House were attending their first performance at Lyric.

• 2 internationally renowned mariachi groups performed in Cruzar in Chicago: Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and Mariachi Aztlán.

• Cruzar is the 1st Spanish-language composition performed at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Chicago Tribune classical music critic John von Rhein summarizes: "By presenting the Midwest premiere of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon) as the latest project of its Lyric Unlimited program, the company fulfilled several objectives. It reached out to members of the city’s Mexican and Latino communities through an art form many of them had never experienced before. It promoted cross-cultural understanding. It called attention to the multicultural diversity and vitality that help to make Chicago unique among major American cities. It made potential new friends for the company while exposing Lyric regulars to a more populist form of entertainment than they are used to." BRAVO to all who made Cruzar a tremendous success

New staging of a contemporary American opera

"Fully costumed (excellently by Johann Stegmeir) and directed with great flair and imagination by Brad Dalton, the artful staging, though clearly minimalist with no sets, worked very well indeed, aided immensely by Duane Schuler’s atmospheric lighting." – Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

A Streetcar Named Desire

It's not a surprise that LOC Creative Consultant Renée Fleming, barihunk Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Ryan Opera Center alumna Susanna Phillips, and the rest of the cast of A Streetcar Named Desire garnered rave reviews!  But what did critics think of the design and Brad Dalton's inventive new "semi-staging," which included the Lyric Opera Orchestra onstage in place of full sets?

• "Kudos to Lyric Opera of Chicago, which is giving André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire a four-performance run. Streetcar is a significant recent opera, and its inclusion contributes much to the tradition of programming new works in this house. While the production has been described in the press as semi-staged, the only elements absent were actual backdrops, whether painted or constructed. There were sufficient props, including tables, chairs, a bed, and other items—to create images of the Kowalski flat and the drama in one’s mind. And since it was placed at the rear of the stage, the orchestra itself became part of the setting. The result gave the audience the opportunity to hear Previn’s detailed score, and the layout appeared to give conductor Evan Rogister greater ability to interact with both the musicians and the principals." – James L. Zychowicz, Seen and Heard International

• "...This more ethereal, though fully costumed and acted production may be the most compelling way to present this three-act American tragedy." Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

• "Fully costumed (excellently by Johann Stegmeir) and directed with great flair and imagination by Brad Dalton, the artful staging, though clearly minimalist with no sets, worked very well indeed, aided immensely by Duane Schuler’s atmospheric lighting." – Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review          

• "Director Dalton made a convincing, semi-abstract theater space out of the stage, using chairs, a table, a bed and Blanche's trunk as the main props, which a group of six cigarette-smoking hunks moved around to define the various scenes. Johann Stegmeir designed the costumes, including a succession of 1940s-style dresses for Fleming. The stage space, lit by Duane Schuler, became more and more surreal as Blanche's mind began to collapse and her ties to reality grew ever more tenuous." John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune  

All performances of Lyric's regular run of André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire are currently sold out.  However, Chicago audiences can still catch this stunning production at a special student night performance!

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